The opposition was fierce and the questions were plenty during the first legislative hearing on Gov. Jeff Landry’s plan to rewrite Louisiana’s constitution. The (amended) plan calls for the Legislature and 27 hand-picked appointees of the governor to overhaul the state’s foundational charter in just two weeks, during the busy and chaotic final stretch of the legislative session. The process for Louisiana’s last constitutional convention, which voters approved in 1974, was a multi-year long process. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports

In its first public hearing, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee received dozens of red cards from people opposed to Beaullieu’s bill. Only a handful got the chance to speak to the committee due to time constraints. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee will hear more testimony on HB 800 on Wednesday. … Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, said holding the regular session and the constitutional convention concurrently would give Landry extra influence because he could trade support for proposed constitutional changes for spending projects in members’ districts.

Reality check: If supporters believe the con-con can wrap up in two weeks, it means they almost certainly know exactly what they want to change in the current constitution. But they haven’t shared those details. Former Rep. Neil Abramson, who’s on Landry’s list of hand-picked delegates, told the committee that the constitution needs to shrink so that legislators can more easily deal with next year’s fiscal “cliff.” But he did not elaborate.  

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would forbid the discussion of systemic racism in Louisiana classrooms. At the heart of the controversy is critical race theory, the study of how public policy and laws perpetuate systemic racism and a catch-all term used by some Republicans, including some in the state Legislature, to describe any lessons about America’s checkered history with race that they find objectionable. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall reports

The measure, Senate Bill 262, forbids public schools from teaching that students endure or cause oppression due to their race or national origin, language that could be interpreted as restricting lessons on systemic or institutional racism. The bill, which passed 28-11 with all Democrats voting against it, now heads to the House. … Democratic lawmakers and other critics, however, said the bill, if passed, could limit educators’ ability to teach American history, as has similar legislation in other Republican-led states. … The legislation is part of a nationwide campaign by Republicans to clamp down on ideas they argue have no place in public schools, including “critical race theory,” or CRT, which examines American history through the lens of racism and holds that racism is systemic.

Reality check: Black Americans have been equal citizens under U.S. law for less than a quarter of America’s 248-year history. And racism has persisted in employment, housing, the judicial system and other areas of society in the 60 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act. We should work to acknowledge and improve upon our nation’s historical shortcomings, not ignore history because it makes us uncomfortable. 

Rural Americans aged 25 to 54 die from natural causes at much higher rates than their counterparts in urban areas, according to a recent report from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The increase was driven largely by women and was most prevalent in the South. KFF’s Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez reports:

In 1999, the natural-cause mortality rate for people ages 25 to 54 in rural areas was only 6 percent higher than for city dwellers in the same age bracket. By 2019, the gap widened to 43 percent. … In the most rural places, counties without an urban core population of 10,000 or more, women in this age group saw an 18 percent increase in natural-cause mortality rates during the study period, while their male peers experienced a 3 percent increase.

Pregnancy-related deaths were the biggest driver for the increased rate of natural-cause mortality for women in rural areas. Louisiana has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation. Nearly one-third of women in Louisiana live in a parish that lacks a single medical professional trained in childbirth and the care of women giving birth. 

The Inflation Reduction Act provided hundreds of millions of dollars to help reduce pollution and improve investments in historically marginalized communities. Floodlight’s Terry L. Jones explains a sense of urgency from these communities and how the environmental justice grants will be used. 

One environmental advocate in Louisiana questioned whether presidential politics could affect the awarding of grants if it stretches past the November elections. … The range of areas and projects for which IRA money under the Thriving Communities program can be awarded include local clean ups, emergency preparedness, disaster resiliency programs, workforce development programs for local jobs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fenceline air quality monitoring, asthma-related projects, healthy homes programs and projects addressing illegal dumping.

$1,241,617,123 – The value of the state sales tax exemption on groceries, prescription drugs and home utilities in 2022-23. (Source: Tax Exemption Budget, Louisiana Department of Revenue). The sales tax exemption is protected by the state constitution, which could be revised in a two-week constitutional convention later this spring.